As the world reacts moment by moment to the dizzying effects of COVID-19, Turo hosts from coast to coast and across the seas are navigating the new coronavirus-tinted world with an inspiring composure and humanity.
Seasoned Turo host Bill H. of Rochester Hills, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit in the hardest-hit county in the state by the coronavirus pandemic, brings all this into focus with his current experience in Detroit.
According to Bill, access to mobility has been an historically tough equation in Michigan. For one, Michigan has some of the highest insurance premiums in the country, making car ownership unattainable for a lot of Michiganders. “Premiums can exceed $200 per month, so a large segment of the population simply can’t afford a car,” even in the pre-coronavirus world, he notes. Coupled with a sub-par public transit system that has pretty much ground to a halt since the outbreak, as well as shrinking (or exorbitantly priced) ridesharing options given the current public health concerns, Detroiters find themselves in an unfortunate confluence of circumstances rendering access to mobility incredibly hard to come by.
“I have one guest who’s a nurse working 12–15-hour days, and who needs a car to get to work at various hospitals in the region,” he says. Turo remains her best option to continue her vital work treating COVID-19 patients and mitigating the spread of the virus. He has another guest who has an internship that requires attendance to maintain enrollment in the program, and driving is her only way to get to work. “We’re all in the same boat right now,” Bill reflects, so he and other Detroit-area hosts are doing their part to support their local community in weathering this storm.
A media executive who only just relocated to Michigan a few years ago, Bill was never a “car person”. He was, however, staring down the barrel of his fiftieth birthday, and had “an itch to buy a convertible, because that’s what you do when you’re turning 50,” he jokes. But realistically, living in Michigan where the harsh winters aren’t exactly conducive to convertible-cruising, he struggled to reconcile the birthday gift to himself.
Then “I saw a Turo commercial on TV, and I thought to myself, ‘that’s how I’m going to buy my convertible,’” and the rest is history. He listed his Scion on Turo in early 2018, and “within 24 hours, it was booked — and stayed booked.” One guest even booked it for several months (recall the aforementioned access-to-mobility conundrum in Michigan), and he thought to himself, “wow, there’s really something here.” Needless to say, he got his convertible — a 2017 Fiat 124 Spider.
Even before global pandemic struck, Bill had a bent for philanthropy and community advocacy. Every month, he donates 10% of his Turo profit “to support an entrepreneur and his or her business in an impoverished country around the world.” He uses the platform kiva.org to donate funds monthly to upstart entrepreneurs around the globe, funneling back some of his Turo spoils to fuel the greater business good.
Now, with business slowing due to COVID-19 and shelter-in-place mandates, he’s looking at tweaking his Turo settings to help local guests who still need access to cars. “First and foremost, meticulously clean your car,” he says as a way for hosts to continue to support local guests. Additionally, Bill and his network of hosts around Detroit are “turning our attention to local markets and our essential workers — lowering our daily rates to appeal to guests, and lowering daily mileage allowances to ensure we’re protected.” He’s also looking at ways to provide discounts to medical workers who can prove they work in the field.
Customer orientation fuels business performance
Bill embodies the All-Star Host spirit both in good times and bad. His can-do attitude in the face of coronavirus is inspiring, and his customer service-oriented philosophy is the gold standard for all Turo hosts to emulate. “Make every trip a five-star trip,” he advises. “Make sure the fuel tank is full, there are no maintenance lights on, the car looks and smells clean and cared for, and treat your customers with the respect they deserve. Stars will pay your payments because stars will drive your business,” he muses, highlighting that exceptional experience is a critical business driver because most guests make their booking decisions after reading hosts’ reviews.
Aside from being hyper-focused on customer service, Bill also recommends that Turo hosts do their homework to really understand their local markets. Bill became a subject matter expert on metro Detroit mobility dynamics — understanding that soaring insurances costs mixed with an inferior public transportation system meant that the lion’s share of his customers would be locals looking for access to mobility (versus tourists). In turn, he also realized that his core customer-base isn’t looking for flashy, expensive cars, but rather affordable daily drivers to get to and from work.
The combination of this savvy analysis with his customer service orientation allows him to give his community what they need.
And now, he’s more able than ever to help his neighbors out with his savvy read on the needs of the market. He’s approaching this time of great uncertainty with grace, a sense of humor (side bar: when coordinating this interview, I lol-ed when Bill said he could make time to talk between second breakfast, quarantine snacks, and reorganizing his sock drawer in alphabetical order), and the collaborative community spirit that makes marketplaces like Turo so special — “I’ll keep them rolling, and clean,” Bill pledges, “as long as people need them.”